Evangelicalism was once known for its theological convictions, like the centrality of Scripture and the need for personal conversion. Now, it’s known for Trumpian politics, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, megachurch scandals, and grift.
Clearly, it’s a movement in crisis. And according to New Testament scholar Constantine Campbell, if the movement doesn’t correct course, it’s in danger of becoming shipwrecked.
In this latest podcast, Dr. Campbell, author of Jesus v. Evangelicals: A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement, critiques evangelicalism using Scripture as his standard. And he shows that it’s not Christianity that’s failed in this present age. Instead, it’s evangelicalism that’s failed in recent times to behave Christianly.
For example, Jesus taught his disciples to win the culture by making disciples. But today, evangelicals are trying to transform culture by gaining political power.
Similarly, evangelicals today rail against some sins, like sexual immorality or perversion. But we wink at equally, or even more pernicious sins, like pride and arrogance.
Those grieved by what we’re seeing in the church will surely be encouraged by this podcast. In discussing what’s wrong in the church, Dr. Campbell also describes what it would look like to do things right and to truly follow the example of Jesus.
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Dr. Constantine Campbell
JULIE ROYS, DR. CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL
JULIE ROYS 00:04
For many evangelicals, evangelicalism and Jesus are one in the same. But according to New Testament scholar, Dr. Constantine Campbell, that’s no longer the case. The movement is in disarray and unless evangelicals correct course, they’re in danger of shipwrecking their faith. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today Dr. Constantine Campbell, author of Jesus versus Evangelicalism, A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement, joins me, and if you’re a regular listener to this podcast, it’s not going to come as any surprise that evangelicalism is in trouble. But what Dr. Campbell does so well is explain why what’s being modeled in evangelicalism is antithetical to the gospel. To quote G.K. Chesterton, “It’s not that the Christian ideal has been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and left untried”. For example, Jesus taught His disciples to win the culture by making disciples. But today, many evangelicals are trying to change the culture by gaining political power. Similarly, evangelicals today railed against some sins like sexual immorality, or perversion, but many wink at equally or even more pernicious sins, like pride and arrogance.
Friends, if you’re aggrieved by what you’re seeing in the church, I believe this podcast is going to encourage you. Yes, we’re going to be talking about what’s wrong in the church, but in doing so, Dr. Campbell describes what it would look like to do things right and to truly follow the example of Jesus. I’m so excited to share this podcast with you.
But first, I’d like to thank two of our sponsors, Accord Analytics and Marquardt of Barrington. In your ministry, your business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For a free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well again, joining me is Dr. Constantine Campbell, a New Testament scholar, author, and documentary host. Dr. Campbell is a Professor and Associate Research Director at Sydney College of Divinity in Sydney, Australia. He’s also the author of several books, including his latest, Jesus versus Evangelicalism, A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement. So, Dr. Campbell, welcome, and thanks so much for writing this book and for taking the time to join me today.
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 03:08
Oh, thanks so much for having me. Julie. It’s great to meet you and speak with you today.
JULIE ROYS 03:12
Well, I feel the same way. And I’m honored that you referred to The Roys Report several times in this book, it’s always just super, super encouraging when we see the impact of the work that we do, not just here in the US, but in Australia, too.
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 03:28
It’s so important. I mean, I can’t think of another ministry really like it. Just so important to be keeping churches and church leaders accountable. And not in a sort of policing kind of way, but in a way that has genuine concern for the church. I just think it’s so important, and I’m really thankful for the work you’re doing.
JULIE ROYS 03:47
Well, thank you for saying that. It is a joy to speak with you. To get to our topic, I don’t think it probably comes as a surprise to anybody that’s followed my work that evangelicalism is, as you say, a wayward movement, a movement that’s lost its moorings. Yet, It’s sad to speak of it that way because I know historically and for me and my family, which goes back many generations of following the Lord, evangelicalism has been known as a movement that really is about vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. And so, I think that’s hard to come to grips with. But I think any evangelical who really loves Jesus has to admit that that’s what it at least is becoming, or in fact, has become, and you even call it perhaps a pseudo-Christianity. What led you to the conclusion that we are in this state?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 04:41
Well, you know, as you say, it’s difficult for anyone who has really identified with the movement that we call evangelicalism. It’s difficult to sort of stand back and critique it. For a long time, you know, I became a Christian as an adult in an evangelical church and I was trained in an evangelical seminary, and my entire academic career has been teaching in evangelical institutions. And that label that badge means so much to the people who wear it, who use it. And nevertheless, as you say, these are very troubling times for evangelicalism. And what tends to happen here in Australia is we say, oh we’re not that sort of evangelical. We say, well, they’re the Americans, or they’re this sort of evangelical, we’re another sort. But the reality is, that distinction really doesn’t mean very much to anyone who’s not inside the movement. And even within the movement. A lot of people don’t really understand what the label is supposed to mean, you know. A lot of people think it just means evangelistic, rather than a set of theological convictions or a way of being a Christian. But I sort of came to this point of critique, I touched on it briefly in the book, but kind of as a quiet critic over the years, since I’m a biblical scholar in New Testament in particular, there’s so many opportunities when we’re looking at the text of Scripture with students to be thinking about, well, there’s hear what the Bible says, and, you know, and I would say, I don’t often hear people speaking about this theme that so clearly here in in Paul’s writing, so I don’t hear preachers talking about this very much. Or sometimes, you know, I heard in a sermon the other day, someone said this, and this text is clearly you know, stands in direct contrast with what I heard or, and students would offer their perspectives and was more of a sort of internal critique initially, a kind of, I guess, as an evangelical myself, wanted to be guided by what I think is the most important evangelical commitment, which is the authority of the scriptures, and to allow my faith, my belief system to be shaped by that, even if I’d heard other things or if I’d been taught other things. So, I wanted to allow the Bible to critique that. And I wanted that for my students to create a sort of robust, biblical evangelicalism.
But the reality is, it’s sort of cut to a point where I guess I couldn’t be a quiet critic anymore. And things sort of reached a point for me personally, but also in the movement, especially in America, especially with certain political things going on, where I think for the sake of evangelicalism, something needed to be said, publicly, and sort of pretty strongly. And so that’s sort of how the book came about.
JULIE ROYS 07:37
And you talk about a number of different symptoms of evangelicalism being, you know, sick. That we really are having trouble, but you say this is, really these are the symptoms that reflected a deeper illness. And so, I want to dig into some of that, as we kind of walk through this book, chapter by chapter. Sometimes I don’t do that when I do books, but this one was so good. It’s like every chapter I want to talk about. So, if we may split this up into a couple of parts, just because, again, it’s really rich.
And you start with, and you’ve alluded to this, God and country and this priority that American evangelicals, I don’t know if this is around the world, but American evangelicals seem to place on cultural and political transformation of our nation, and sometimes marrying America as the city on the hill when I don’t think it was mentioned in Scripture as the city on the hill. But evangelicalism has always had sort of a social action kind of component to it, but it seems like something’s really shifted. And I think it probably shifted a long time ago. But I know for me, I didn’t realize how profoundly it had shifted until the Trump administration. From your perspective, what causes you alarm, as you think about the politization of the gospel, and this God and country theme that really is very, very strong in America?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 09:09
Julie, there is so much to say about that? Right? I think the starting point would be this assumption, that there’s something special in God’s purposes about America. And I don’t want to deny that that could entirely be the case. But the sort of assumption that America is and ought to be a kind of Christian nation. And that’s sort of been there historically, really, from the beginning of America’s history since European colonization. And this, to my mind really does not reflect biblical teaching. There’s not one particular country that, you know, has a special place in God’s plans. Or if there is one, it’s Israel, and as you say, in the Old Covenant in the Old Testament. So, I think a lot of American Christians want to preserve that sense that America is a Christian country. So that’s one thing.
The second is how to go about that, but also how to go about any cultural influence or political influence. In the book, I sort of contrast the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, with the sort of religious right movement beginning in the 80s. And this is not my observation, but I repeat this observation that the civil rights movement was not partisan. It didn’t connect itself to one particular party. It was political in the sense that it appealed to politicians and appealed for legislative change in those sorts of movements. But it did it from a nonpartisan position so that it could actually function as a prophetic voice in society. And it did it the long way, which is to try to persuade American minds through nonviolent protest, through television, through interviews, through preaching, and then gradually, you know, if you can persuade the population, then politicians fall in line, you know, that’s how democracy works.
And so, the Civil Rights Movement achieved enduring change, because it actually changed the way America thought about race. Whereas the religious right movement went for the shortcut approach, which is try to achieve change by using political power. So just go straight to the top, win offices, get your people in position, and then the lawmakers can actually affect policy. But the problem is, if you don’t take the people with you, then it’s not going to create enduring cultural change.
And it actually and this leads to my third problem, which is that Christians should have a totally otherworldly view of power, and how power is used. And I think this is one of the things that go right deep into the heart of the illness of American evangelicalism in its present state, is that it wants to exert power in a worldly way, which is, simply I’m going to overpower my enemy. And I’m going to use political power, in this case, to get what I want for me and my tribe. And that just seems antithetical to the way the New Testament addresses issues of power.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians in chapter one says that the cross of Christ turns upside down human power structures, and its actually this foolishness to Greeks. Because how can you worship a crucified God, like, what sort of powerful God gets himself crucified? But Christ crucified is the power of God for salvation. And so, it turns the whole economy of power upside down, so that in God’s economy in the kingdom of God, if you like, the economy, the kingdom of God, the weak are exalted, those who are humble are exalted, and those who exalt themselves are humbled are lowered. And if Christians don’t operate that way, in seeking to change culture and influence the world around them, then they’re actually just being secular, and just being like the rest of the world, where the strongest winds, and that is not the way of Jesus, that’s not the way of Christianity and it fundamentally misses the heart of what Christianity is about.
JULIE ROYS 13:35
And I remember back in 2016, writing some commentaries, and I lost actually, supporters for doing this because I was like, if we’re gonna say that character matters, we can’t all of a sudden jettison that because this is the Republican candidate. And it was shocking to me to hear my brothers and sisters in Christ, I thought we were on the same wavelength, make arguments, rationalizing why we had to basically shelve all of our values and commitments to get us a Supreme Court, you know, that’s going to vote our way. And we’ve seen some benefits of that. Yeah, we have a court right now that overturned Roe v. Wade, wonderful. I’m glad that happened. However, at what cost? At what cost? And that’s what I love that you bring out and I said this, I said, we are going to see, we may have some political gains. But at the end of all of this, the harm to the church is going to be profound. And I don’t see evangelicalism as a whole right now willing to even acknowledge how much harm has been done yet alone, repent of it. I mean, as you look at it, what kind of what’s been the lasting damage of us adopting this approach?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 14:50
There’s so much, but I think the probably the thing that I find most sad is that the very reason for exercising power in this way is to try to transform a community or a culture to be more God-wood, you know, to reflect God’s values. But the irony is by pursuing political power in this way, I think it’s made a culture deaf to the message of the church. Because all they see are power mongering hypocrites, who are trying to get their own way at any expense. I mean, look, to be honest with you, Trump is a threat to the world, not just America, you know. He’s actually such a dangerous figure. And I think, you know, to put the world at risk, in this way, simply to get policies passed, and to get the Supreme Court justices that you want. Like, I’ll just speak frankly, it’s doing a deal with the devil. And that never works out well. So, the sacrifice of character and integrity, and the sacrifice of the message of Jesus, for political power is, you know, I don’t want to be too dramatic about it. But I think it’s put the cause of Christ in America backwards decades.
JULIE ROYS 16:11
It has, and we have a huge PR problem now. And you say, I heard you saying earlier that we forgot that culture is downstream of politics, right? You change a culture before you change politics. But you also change a culture by changing the heart. And we have to start there. And right now, the hearts are hard to our message. And they’re associating things with Christ that have nothing to do with Christ. And we’ve got some, some hard, hard work to do. And I think some repenting some public repenting to do before, people are going to listen to us, hopefully, in our private realm of the people we encounter who are non-Christians. I think they’re surprised often now when they get to know us that we’re not this thing, that we are in the media. And hopefully we’re not that way in private. But we’ve got some work to do.
We have had in politics, obviously, an us/them mentality, right? And that’s caused a lot of problems. But you also talk about there being an us/them mentality within the church, and this tribalism, and it is so so true. I mean, you have the reformed community, you have the Charismatics, you have, and I read that, and I thought of actually a really a sad, but it will be forever. In my memory of one of the first meetings I had been at Moody Bible Institute, I was with Moody Radio for about 10 years. And we were having a meeting. And we were trying to figure out what the new president wanted and what he liked. And it wasn’t about like what Jesus wants. It was about what the new president wants. And I remember at one point, the VP of broadcasting drawing a circle, and putting writing in the middle of that circle, charismatics, and then drawing a line through the circle. And I remember at the time just being shocked, and I’m sure had I not been there for just I’ve been there two weeks. So, like, I’m just like, as green as can be, that I probably would have said something that might have gotten me ousted out of there quicker than I was. But at the time, just so shocked that these are our brothers and sisters, and we’re drawing a circle and putting a line through it? I mean, are we nuts? But that’s what’s been happening. And it really is an us/them ,if you’re not a part, not only or if you’re not an evangelical, but if you’re not in evangelical who’s part of my tribe, then you’re not with me, you’re against me. Explain how you see that, and, again, the damage this is doing to the cause of Christ.
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 18:48
So, I think tribalism is a terrible danger to the church because we get stuck in these idiosyncratic sycophantic echo chambers. And we just kind of spiral down in them and become weirder and weirder and more off base, and more and more off base, because we don’t have anyone challenging and correcting us. Yeah, I do think it’s an insidious problem, because so many evangelicals really are blind to it. It sort of happens often without us noticing. And this is an area where my own context here in Australia, that issue is very relevant here, just as much as in the US. In some ways, you know, I got caught up in it myself, and I needed to kind of leave Australia. And when I was in America, particularly, I was able to look back on the scene there and see it a little more objectively and see some of the things that were going on, that really could only be described as tribalism. So that if you line up behind a certain leader, as opposed to a different leader, who may believe 99.9% of all the same things, who might both be faithful people who might both be, you know, great leaders, but if you line up behind one rather than the other, you’re the enemy, you know, or even if it’s not put that strongly, you’re just sort of left out, you know, you’re just not in the in group. You’re in that other group. And you know, and we have a certain opinion about that other group and It’s just not, it’s just not acceptable, even if any particular tribe could claim that they’re 100%, right in theology and 100% right in practice, they’re 100% wrong to exclude others on those grounds, because that again, betrays the spirit and character of Jesus, who said, If you love one another, then they will know you’re my disciples. That is how the disciples of Jesus are identified by their love for one another. And he didn’t say, if you love one another, and they’re Calvinist, or if you love one another, and they’re charismatic, or if you love one another, and they’re inerrantists. No. He says, If you love one another, and I think that actually gives us if we take all of it tremendous freedom, to embrace one another, and recognize, you know, we’re aliens and strangers in the world, we are fallen human beings. And yes, we have the Spirit of God, if you trust in Christ. But we’re all so flawed, and so wrong about so many things. And we’re on a journey, you know, where we’re going to learn, and God will teach us, and we will teach each other. But no one’s got 100% right, and even if you do, where’s the compassion for others who are not there yet, or who think differently, or who’ve come from a different culture, and so don’t read the Bible the same way that you do? Like, actually, by listening to them, you might see things about the scriptures that you hadn’t seen before. Because we’re all sort of blinded by our western individualistic, modern mindset that shapes the way we read the text. And so, any reading of the text and any practice of Christianity must be conducted with humility. And we should invite contrary views to sort of open our minds and our eyes to see things that we may be missing.
JULIE ROYS 22:18
That’s interesting, you say that. I mean, it’s almost what happens if you continue to inbreed within a group, right? I mean, it’s their weaknesses. Yeah, it is what happens. And we’ve lost that someone who might think differently than us, might be, God forbid, right, and we might be wrong, or might add some nuance, which there’s no nuance anymore. And there’s no humility. I mean, the amount of arrogance to think that you have the scriptures figured out, right? It’s mind boggling to me.
We have this us versus them within evangelicalism, we obviously have it in spades, I think between us and the world. And we see different groups within evangelicalism capitalizing on that right? To sort of, I call, well, actually, I didn’t get this for myself, Coleman Luck calls it the politics of panic. And he’s right, we do a lot of this. Because if you can fire up the base with a lot of fear, you can motivate them towards something. But I think it’s created a real problem with how we’re perceived by the world because we’re, you know, it says, they will know you’re Christians by your love. And yet they’re certain groups of people, and you talk about them, you know, LGBTQ community is not seeing us as loving them. And I don’t see you saying we need to throw out our core theological convictions. But what I do see you saying, and I’ve said this to some people recently is that I feel like my core convictions haven’t changed, but how I hold them, has changed. Where I find myself more willing to sit in discomfort, because it’s uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable, but to sit with that, and just keep my mouth shut, and just listen. And how can I love you, you know. But it’s pretty tough to do. And, you know, I see, as I’m reading your book, you are saying, if we don’t come up with a different way of engaging the world, we’re not going to engage the world. Right?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 24:28
Yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it. Yeah, we’re just going to be treated as well, actually increasingly in the West. And I think in Australia, we may be ahead of the states, but this is probably where the states is going. Christianity is seen as immoral. So, it used to be that Christians were good people. Then Christians were neutral. You can believe what you want as long as you don’t foist it on other people through to now being Christians are the most immoral people because the one thing that modern society won’t tolerate is intolerance. And Christians are perceived as intolerant. And I think you’re absolutely right. This in one way has nothing to do with what you actually believe about those issues. It has everything to do with how you hold those beliefs. As you said, I really like that phrase. And again, it has to do with how we love other people. We’re all products of a broken world. If I know God, and you know, God, that’s by the grace of God, it’s not by any merit of our own. That’s evangelical theology. Right? That’s we haven’t deserved this place in God’s family. We haven’t warranted the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is God’s free gift to us. And so, who are we to look down on someone who has not yet received that gift? You know. That’s just appalling, to be honest. And again, I think we need to think about what’s our ultimate goal here? Is our ultimate goal to win something? Is it to take power? Is it to dominate someone or judge someone or be over someone? Or is it to point them to the love of God? How do you point someone to the love of God by telling them that their whole way of living is evil and corrupted from the devil, and I want nothing to do with you? It’s just like it’s not going to work that way.
JULIE ROYS 26:33
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Let’s talk about one that’s a little more I’d say very, very common in the church, the acceptable sins, and the unacceptable sins. Because we’re kind of touching on that right now. Because we do have our acceptable sins, you can be a glutton, and speaking of DL Moody, very, very large man. That’s okay. You know, in the United States, that’s absolutely fine. Or, you know, greed seems to be just fine in our capitalist society. We’re fine with that. But sexual immorality, abortion, drug addiction, these things. Those are sins that are not going to be acceptable. Talk about that a little bit about why do we have sort of this dichotomy of sins? And I do like you don’t just sin-level the whole thing and say they’re all the same. But we’re kind of upside down a little bit, aren’t we on what sins get our attention and which ones don’t?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 29:35
Yeah, I think you’re right. We are upside down. And as I kind of cheekily refer to it, if you look at the broad teaching of the Bible, the most biblical sin is pride. And I sort of argue that that is really at the root of not being able to be right with God because if Jesus message is to repent and believe the good news, where repentance requires humility because you got to turn around from the direction you’re going and come back, you got to admit, okay, I was wrong and to go the other way. And to believe that means to trust and have to make allegiance with Jesus. And so, you’re saying, Okay, I’m not going to go my own way, I’m not going to be boss in my own life, I’m going to make Jesus Lord, and I’m going to trust him what he’s done for me. So, repentance and belief that repentance and faith are like, that’s his message. And it’s impossible to do either of those things if you’re full of pride. And Jesus teaches in several parables, especially in Luke’s gospel, about the difference between humility and pride. And perhaps the most shocking is in Luke 19, where he talks about the Pharisee, and the tax collector praying in the temple, and the tax collector, you know, this is a trope that every one of his listeners would understand. This is a simple person who, you know, supports the Romans, those occupiers those evil occupiers, and cheats our own people to line his own pockets. So, he’s despised, and it’s kind of the definition along with prostitutes of what a sinner is in that culture. And then the Pharisee, who is this elite religious leader who, you know, is so impressive by religious standards and more serious and committed than any other religious group in Israel in the day, and they’re both praying at the temple, and the Pharisee prays basically saying, I’m great look at me. And I’m glad I’m not like these other people, doesn’t ask for anything, doesn’t show any dependence on God doesn’t ask for God’s mercy just basically says, Thanks, God, I’m not like these other people. Whereas the tax collector beats his chest, can’t even look up to heaven. He’s full of shame and says, God, be merciful to me. And Jesus says, the tax collector, not the Pharisee, walked down from the temple justified, made right with God. And it’s incredibly powerful. I still get shivers down the spine, when I think about it, that parable, because it just turns again, turns everything upside down, which is what Jesus did again, and again and again. And religious performance if it’s mixed with pride is not celebrated by Jesus. But someone who’s committed terrible sins yet is humble and throws themselves upon God’s mercy is exalted by Jesus. It says, be like that person, be like that person.
And unfortunately, our churches, and you document them. And this is one of the reasons your ministry is so important is that you actually shine a light on leaders who are committing the kinds of sins that our evangelical culture tolerates, but that Jesus does not tolerate and that the Bible as a whole does not tolerate. I mean, in Proverbs, it even says that God hates the proud. I mean, that’s so strong. That’s so strong. He hates people who are proud. And so how do we have church cultures that permit leaders who are proud, or who are arrogant or who are bullies, or who dominate, or who exert power in these unchristian ways to last in their role until it eventually becomes too toxic, and they have to go? Whereas commit one of these other sins, sexual morality is the most sort of prominent one in our minds, I guess. They’re gone like that overnight. So, what’s gone wrong? Yeah. And that’s what that chapter about acceptable sins is all about that we’ve actually we’ve got it; we’ve got the balance incorrect. And that Jesus offers mercy and grace to repentant sinners. And especially they seem to keep coming up as the ones who failed sexually in various ways. And he doesn’t rub their noses in it, you know, but he forgives them. It says that their sins are forgiven, but the proud religious leaders who resist Jesus and who resist repenting, received no mercy from him. There’s no word of comfort for them. In fact, he condemns them in pretty much the strongest language possible.
JULIE ROYS 34:23
And I think you see, in the investigations that we’ve done, I mean, this has been one of the hardest things is getting the church to take bullying and intimidation and spiritual abuse seriously. And I remember like when I was first reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel and James McDonald I remember somebody saying, you know, sort of tongue in cheek but I wish this were just sexual immorality, it’d be so much easier. And I’m like, Yeah, you’re right. I report that there’s no argument about whether this is bad enough to disqualify you from ministering. But we have you know, right now I did so many stories on Andy Wood, who’s the successor for Rick Warren at Saddleback, and even had a colleague of mine do an interview recently with Rick Warren and I was just so grieved over it. And I reached out to him, and I said something because they were chalking it up to just workplace issues and administrative type issues. And that’s not really a serious issue. And I’m like, No, this was absolute bullying, and spiritual abuse. And yet it’s getting a wink within the church. And of course, Andy Wood went on to succeed Rick Warren. And very concerning when you have that kind of pattern because it doesn’t usually go away.
But we really have forgotten, and I used to have a pastor that said, there’s one choice in life, and it’s between pride and worship. And the more knowledge we have, right, the more theologically correct we are, the more susceptible we are right? Because knowledge puffs up to those sins. So, I appreciate you dealing with that. And you go into one of the unacceptable sins, which to you is personal, which is divorce and remarriage. And I have talked to so many women within the church, like Nagmeh Panahi, who was pressured to go back to her abusing husband, Pastor Saeed, because it ruined the image, right? And we’ve made this idol out of marriage. But I’ve talked to so many women who have encountered that in one way, shape or form within the church. You encountered it yourself because you experienced divorce. What was the church’s response to you? Did it feel like Jesus to you?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 36:36
First off, I’d say some people, and some responses really did. And that was kind of a saving grace for me, in a way, because I have to say that this is the time when I didn’t know if my faith would survive it, to be honest with you, because I think we had made such a strong connection between marriage and Christian faith, that it was almost like, no one would say this, but it was almost like, you know, if your marriage fails, are you even a Christian anymore? Like, that’s how strong.
JULIE ROYS 37:08
It’s like apostasy too, yeah.
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 37:10
Yeah, exactly. And that’s just not a biblical concept at all. And it undermines the mercy and grace of God. It sort of says, there’s one unforgivable sin and it’s divorce. And, you know, no one can recover from that and be a Christian. And it’s just total rubbish, thankfully, and I had a few people in my life who knew that and reminded me of that, and who drew nearer to me, and I thank God for them. And actually, that experience, contrary to what I thought was gonna happen, really deepened, and renewed my faith, because I really saw the grace of God working through those people and working through my life circumstances as well.
But to be sure, there were many others and church culture in general, that was I felt not reflective of Jesus; judgmental, jumping to conclusions, cutting relationship, believing rumors, and rumor mongering, and gossip mongering, taking sides, all this sort of stuff that you it sort of, I mean, I think back on some of these people, and if you told me that was going to happen, before it happened, I would think that they would never react that way, you know. No, that’s not going to be you know, surely God’s love, you know, surely common sense, you know, but I was just shocked and surprised again, and again, how, I guess I put it down to how ill equipped some parts of the church are in dealing with what I would regard as a major personal catastrophe. Some people just couldn’t cope with it. And didn’t have a way to think around it except, well divorce is wrong. So, either fix it or I don’t see how you can be a Christian. And it’s just like, yeah, so writing a chapter about that was really personal obviously. If you’ve read it, as I know you have, but the listeners if they read it, you know, it’s personal, I probably didn’t succeed. I tried to keep my personal feelings and hurt out of it so that it’s useful for everybody, whether it’s those who are suffering, post-divorce, or suffering in a marriage where this even sounds wrong, but there needs to be a divorce, but also to help the rest of the church, to know how to care for people in those situations, and to show the love of Christ because as I read the Bible, there’s no failure that disqualifies you from the love of God. That’s what Paul says in Romans 8. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ, famine, hardship, nor divorce. So, I rest my head on that truth.
JULIE ROYS 39:51
And you say there’s a couple of questions that are helpful to ask and a couple of questions that are not helpful to ask just on a practical level. Walk us through those.
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 40:01
Yeah, I think people should be able to work them out for themselves, if you operate from a posture of what is the loving thing for this person in front of me? Rather than thinking, I’ve got to satisfy the inner juror and decide, you know, is this person guilty of something, needs to be rebuked, or, you know, the sort of inner policeman or inner juror. Bhat if we’re operating out of a genuine concern for the other person, a good question to ask will be are you okay? How can I help you? Do you want to talk about it? Bad questions to ask, in my experience are what is the biblical grounds for your divorce? Is there someone else? These sorts of questions come with assumptions that are accusatory before you know anything about the situation. And they’re just not helpful. It’s a bit like your grandpa’s experience. You don’t lead with that stuff, you know. First, relate and connect and be loving. And I think if someone wants to talk about their situation, that’s fine. But it’s actually not other people’s job to judge whose fault it was that this separation or divorce happened, or, you know, what sins were committed. And that sort of thing.
JULIE ROYS 41:17
Yeah. I mean, what do you say, I’m guessing when you applied for your job at the seminary, you’re at, you had to answer some questions about it. And there are some legitimate places where, obviously, we need to explain ourselves if we’re going to be in positions of leadership. But for the average person, can we not love without knowing all the answers and just love imperfect people living imperfect lives, in an imperfect world, right?
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 41:46
That’s right. We’re aliens and strangers in a fallen world. And we’re all getting hit and bruised and hurting others. And it’s all part of the messy life that we live in. And yeah, I think in positions of responsibility, especially in a theological context, questions need to be asked. But again, the way they’re asked is very important. There’s more to finding out whether someone is capable or should be in a position of leadership, as The Roys Report keeps pointing out well, okay. I find it extraordinary that the elders of Mars Hill concluded that Mark Driscoll was not guilty of any immorality was their wording, right? So, what they mean by morality is, he didn’t commit adultery, and his marriage stayed together as pretty much what it means. But being domineering and arrogant, and being a bully, is not counted as immorality. So, that’s crazy, you know? So, I think when people are being interviewed for those sorts of positions, or whatever, the question should not be just around, how’s your marriage? Or can you tell me about your divorce? But also, like, you know, looking for how do you exert power? You know, what sort of leader are you? You know, how do you treat people who disagree with you? Those sorts of things, which are just as important in my view.
JULIE ROYS 43:09
Well, this concludes part one of my podcast with Dr. Constantine Campbell. In part two, we’ll explore the mega church and its impact on evangelicalism. And Dr. Campbell doesn’t mince words, but actually says this model of church is destroying evangelicalism, and it’s a far cry from the model described by the apostle Paul.
- CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 43:28
Paul talks about this model of the church where it’s building itself up in love. It’s an idea of every member of the church working together, as the body of Christ grows in maturity. Not numerically, necessarily, but in maturity, and in faith. The consumerism of the mega church model is that you see a few people working very hard, the professionals, but the average person attends.
JULIE ROYS 43:54
Well, again, that’s just a taste of part two of my podcast with Dr. Constantine Campbell, author of Jesus Versus Evangelicals. And if you enjoy this podcast, you’re really going to enjoy the next one. I also believe you’re going to enjoy Dr. Campbell’s book, Jesus Versus Evangelicals. And in April, if you give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report, we’ll send you a copy of Jesus Versus Evangelicals. Plus, you’ll be helping support our ministry which is almost 100% grassroots funded. We don’t have big donors or grants or advertising. We have you the people who are passionate to see evil exposed, and the church renewed. So, to give your gift and get a copy of Jesus Versus Evangelicals, go to JULIEROYS.COM/CONATE.
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